The Social Security Disability system in the United States is very complicated. Whether you are a recently disabled father trying to provide for your family, a single mother who can no longer work because of an illness, or the parent of a child who needs extra help because of a challenging condition, obtaining benefits is not easy. The “system” involves a complex set of rules and requirements that make it very hard for the average person to successfully receive payments.

There is hope, however, and we appreciate you looking for help here. Our law firm provides unique benefits to clients just like you, which include:

  • A singular focus on representing the injured and disabled.
  • Having all important work performed by an experienced disability attorney.
  • A guarantee that you pay no fees unless you obtain social security disability benefits.
  • A proven track record of success in both routine and difficult cases.

Regardless of whether you are considering filing for benefits for the first time, or have been denied numerous times in the past, please call our office at (404) 255-9838. We will discuss your options free of charge, and help you make an informed decision about what to do next. We look forward to talking with you.

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The Social Security Administration operates a Compassionate Allowance Program that identifies certain medical conditions that it will consider disabling.  These conditions allow SSA to accelerate claims processing for disability.  These medical conditions usually include certain cancers, some being at a later stage, adult brain disorders, and a number of rare diseases that affect children.  Waiting times for approval are reduced by several months if your condition qualifies.

Recently SSA announced 12 new conditions to its list.  These are:   Angioimmunoblastic T-cell Lymphoma, Blastic Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cell Neoplasm, Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker Disease, Microvillus Inclusion Disease – Child, Mowat-Wilson Syndrome, Myelodysplastic Syndrome with Excess Blasts, NUT Carcinoma, Pfeiffer Syndrome – Types II and III, Pontocerebellar Hypoplasia, Posterior Cortical Atrophy, Renal Amyloidosis – AL Type, and Sarcomatoid Mesothelioma.

SSA receives information from the public, medical experts, the disability program administrators, research from the National Institute of Health and public hearings to determine if new conditions should to be added to the list.

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Recently a client inquiring about SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits asked me how people are supposed to live on the benefit.  SSI is a disability or retirement program for low income individuals; many of whom do not have a work history or sufficient work credits to qualify for Social Security disability or retirement.  The current maximum SSI benefit is $841 for an eligible individual, $1261 for two disabled spouses, and $421 for an essential person to an SSI beneficiary.  Most SSI beneficiaries also receive SNAP (food stamps) benefits.  The Food Stamp Program and SSI are critical parts of our national public assistance program.  SNAP benefits increase the income of SSI recipients by about 13%.

In order to qualify for SSI, an individual may not have more than $2000 in countable income or assets.  A couple may not have more than $3000 in countable income or assets.  The SNAP benefits in Georgia have a lower income threshold than SSI.  Thus, if you receive SSI you will be eligible for SNAP benefits.  The monthly SNAP benefit currently for a single individual is $250.  With these combined benefits, a single individual on SSI and food stamps has a monthly income of $1091 assuming no other deductions apply.

The federal government also provides other poverty safety net programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Section 8 Housing Assistance.  However, these programs may not apply to all individuals or they may have waiting lists for available resources.  TANF benefits are a monthly cash assistance for low income families with children under 18.  TANF has a work requirement (thus it would not be applicable for a disabled individual).  Further, TANF, as the name states, is available for a limited period of time.  The Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8, provides subsidy rent payments directly to a landlord who participates in the program.  Many SSI beneficiaries take advantage of this program.  You can find out more about these assistance programs at the Georgia Department of Family and Children Services here.  You can apply for Section 8 housing vouchers  through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs here.

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Annually observed by the Centers for Disease Control, August is National Immunization Awareness Month.  You can find more information about National Immunization Awareness Month here.

To date just over 70% of people in this country are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, including children over five.  Almost 50% of the population has had at least one booster following the two dose  vaccine.  Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a safer way to build immunity from COVID-19 than contracting the disease and counting on ”natural immunity” to protect you from future exposure.  Currently everyone 6 months and older can get a COVID-19 vaccine.  Talk to your doctor if you are allergic to certain types of vaccines or injectable medicines for other diseases.

The COVID-19 is free for all people living in the U.S. regardless of health insurance or immigration status.  Once  you receive a vaccine, you will receive a COVID-19 vaccination card which you should keep with you in your wallet.  ALso, consider taking a photo of it with your smart phone.

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The Senate Budget Reconciliation Bill, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, passed the Senate last Sunday.  The bill reduces drug spending by the federal government on Medicare.  The bill allows Medicare to negotiate the price of certain high-cost medications, caps out of pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries, and penalizes drug manufacturers who increase drug prices faster than inflation.

The bill allows Medicare to negotiate the price of some costly drugs.  Medicare pays for drugs through Medicare Part D and Part B programs.  Consumers are either billed by physicians for drugs administered or they purchase drugs directly.  In both events, prior legislation prevented Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices with the pharmaceutical manufacturers.  In this bill, price negotiation will begin in 2026 and will limited to 10-15 high cost drugs each year.  Consumers may not notice a price reduction if their prescription drug is not up for a negotiated lower rate.  Negotiated prices for 10 of the costliest drugs for Medicare will begin in 2026.  Cost negotiation caps out at 20 drugs per year in 2029.  The provision also introduces a $2000 annual cap on out of pocket costs for those on Medicare.

What the bill was unable to do, despite efforts by Democrats, is to cap the cost of insulin for diabetics at $35 per month.  Using a parlimentary rule, Republican Senators, argued this part of the bill was not technically a federal budget item as it impacted private manufacturers.  Efforts to help Americans faced with costly drug items will have to pass a filibuster proof Senate.  Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”) estimates that the price negotiation will result in a savings of $101.8 billion over ten years.

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Catching COVID-19 a second or more time heightens one’s risk for contracting Long COVID.  A recent Veterans Administration Health Study found that the risk of Long COVID increased with each subsequent re-infection.  Long COVID symptoms include malaise, fatigue, pulmonary problems, neurological issues, cardiovascular abnormalities, gastrointestinal pain and mental health impairments.  The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that Long COVID may affect 10 to 33 million working age adults in the US.

The correlation between Long COVID and re-infection rates is concerning given that the newest Omicron subvariant – BA.5 — readily infects the vaccinated, the boosted and people with prior immunity.  BA.5 currently accounts for 82 percent of all infections in the U.S.  Subvariant BA.5  is particularly proficient in dodging vaccination and prior immunity guardrails.  The swift mutation of the COVID-19 virus and its mutated sub-variants alarms medical professionals attempting to get infections rates under control.  To add to this concern, experts report that subsequent infections may be causing extensive cumulative damage to the body even when the symptoms are mild.   Multiple infections can contribute to death, hospitalizaiton and long term damage to major organs

Long COVID symptoms impact a person’s ability to work.  Over 15 percent of unfilled jobs are now related to Long COVID.  Claims for Long COVID are affecting employer provided disability insurance, worker’s compensation and health insurance.  For those industries particularly prone to employee COVID infections, such as healthcare or manufacturing, they may be disproportionately affected by absenteeism and rising healthcare costs.

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This week marks the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law on July 26, 1990.  According to data from the CDC, approximately 61 million Americans live with disabilities.  This means one in four Americans live with a severe medical impairment that impacts their mobility, cognition, hearing, vision, independent living or self-care. The ADA legislation has been ground-breaking in providing physical accessibility and non-discrimination in employment.  Still, the unemployment for persons with disabilities remains high.  The unemployment rate for a disabled person is 14.4 percent compared to 9.5 percent in the general population.  Today many in the disabled community continue to live in poverty.

Many adults with disabilities who were never able to enter the workforce receive Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”).  The SSI maximum benefit is currently $841 a month.  This computes to an annual income of $10,092.00.  The federal poverty level for 2021 for a household of one is $12,880.     Income eligibility for SSI has not been adjusted since 1989.  It remains at an asset and income limit of $2000 for an individual and $3000 for a couple.  Excluding a home used a residence and one car, all other income/assets must place the individual below the poverty level.

The average benefit for an SSDI (Social Security Disability Income) individual is $1236 per month.  These benefits are earned from working and paying FICA payroll taxes over a period of time.  This average benefit translates to $14,832 per month.

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Injuries like those that occur in a fall, a car accident or a work accident or even a sudden chronic severe medical condition can prevent a person from returning to work full-time.  Private long-term disability insurance can offset this loss of income.

According to the Council for Disability Awareness, as many as one in four 20 -year -olds today will find themselves unable to work for as long as a year because of a disability before they reach retirement age.  Long term disability insurance is private insurance that compensates for the loss of income that due to a disabling condition.

Most American workers are not equipped for this kind of financial hardship. In fact, less than half of all American workers have three months worth of income saved to sbustitute for the loss of income in the case of a sudden illness or injury.  Short term and long term disability insurance can  be used to offset the income loss for such persons.

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Next year, Social Security disability beneficiaries may be able to earn a higher amount per month without it having an effect on their eligibility for benefits.  This and other changes could be coming to the Social Security Administration as early as 2023.

Experts predict that income thresholds (known as “substantial gainful activity” or “SGA”) for Social Security disability beneficiaries will increase in 2023. Currently, the SGA threshold is $1,350 for disabled individuals.   Social Security observers predict the threshold will increase in 2023 making it possible for beneficiaries to earn more and still remain on benefits.

In 2022, the Social Security Administration announced a record cost -of -living adjustment, resulting in more money for Social Security disability beneficiaries. That cost-of-living adjustment may actually increase even further in 2023. Experts suggest that the cost- of -living adjustment will reach 8. 6% in 2023.  This has been confirmed by officials at the Social Security Administration who say that the cost-of -living adjustment increase for next year will reflect the growing inflation in the country. If the 8.6% cost-of-living adjustment goes into effect next year, then it would be the highest such increase on record since 1981.

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Can you invest your Social Security Disability benefits in a Roth IRA?

Roth IRAs are a type of individual retirement account that can allow you to save earned income while allowing that income to grow.  You can withdraw that income at a certain point of time in the future.  Roth IRAs are meant to be used to invest your after – tax  earnings.

Do Social Security disability benefits qualify as earned income to be invested in a Roth IRA?   The simple answer is NO.  Social Security disability benefits are not considered earned income.  However, if you are working part time  and have a source of income in addition to the benefits that you receive every month, this earned income can be invested in a  Roth IRA retirement account.  One caveat to working under substantial gainful employment (the maximum amount you can earn each month and still be considered disabled) is that these earnings might trigger a continuing disability review by Social Security to see if you are actually still medically disabled.  This is a risk undertaken when working while collecting disability.

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Yesterday the 11th Circuit lifted immediately an injunction from the lower courts on Georgia’s Heartbeat Bill – HB 481, making it law in Georgia.  The statute, known as the “Heartbeat Bill” provides that unborn persons have equal rights with born humans.  An unborn child becomes a person upon a detectable heartbeat determined (unscientifically) to be at six weeks.   Oddly, the bill references the 14th Amendment and its substantive due process inalienable rights of “life, liberty and property”.  Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in his concurring opinion in the Roe v. Wade destruction case Dobbs vs. Jackson Health held that the US Constitution provides no substantive due process rights.  Nevertheless, a fetus now has these rights of equal (actually greater status) than the mother.

Per the statute, abortions after six weeks are illegal.  These exceptions apply.  Abortion is allowed to remove a dead unborn child caused by a spontaneous abortion.  Here is an important word: dead.  Women incurring a miscarriage will not be medically treated to remove the fetus, but rather will continue to have their health weighed against the balance of a heartbeat until death can be determined.  Again, the health of the mother is now, legally, secondary, to a fetus during a miscarriage.

An abortion to remove an ectopic pregnancy is an exception to the abortion rule.  The ectopic pregnancy is a  non-viable pregnancy certain to cause the death of the mother.  Very generous of the legislature.  Wild applause.

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